Seaview Residents Share Concerns About Propane Storage Deadline for county decision is Thursday, July 13

— by Matt Willis —

On Thursday, July 13 a San Juan Hearing Examiner is set to make a decision that local residents feel could put their safety at risk. Community members facing that possibility met at the Eastsound Fire Station to publicly express their concerns last Wednesday, July 5.

Orcas Issues has previously reported that Inter-Island Propane intends to place a 30,000 gallon propane storage tank (with a capacity of over 100,000 pounds of fuel) at 27 Aeroview Lane in Eastsound. Donny Galt, co-owner of the company, led Wednesday’s meeting and attempted to address everyone’s concerns.

Also in attendance were Councilman Rick Hughes, Fire Chief Scott Williams, and Eastsound Water Users Association General Manager/EPRC Member Paul Kamin.

Galt welcomed the crowded meeting hall with a warm smile and explained to attendees that he wants to bring his business to Orcas Island for the benefit of its residents. A competing propane business on Orcas should drive down the cost of this fuel on which most of us depend heavily here on the island, he noted.

However, many attendees seemed leery of Galt’s explanation, noting that it’s their lives and property values that will be negatively impacted by the facility, while Galt profits.

The devastation due to a worst case scenario, a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE), was a concern that everyone shared, especially given the lack of egress for some residents living on Seaview Street. The EPA’s Risk Management Program Guidance for Propane Storage Facilities states that for a 30,000 Gallon tank, the worst case scenario would cause broken glass in buildings up to 0.4 miles away.

The feeling of helplessness expressed by some attendees was palpable as they pointed out that their retirement depended completely on the value of their property. However, one person noted that property values were already deflated since they were adjacent to an area zoned for service and light industrial use in the first place.

To extinguish concerns of a BLEVE or gas leak, Galt carefully walked the group through a slide presentation covering all of the safety precautions and fail-safes to be in place as part of this system. No less than ten physical mechanisms provide redundancy in preventing leaks, including those caused by a pull-away (which was the case for the leak that occurred on the island during the winter of 2015). On top of that, all individuals involved in the propane storage process will have adequate training in proper procedures, risk mitigation, and issue response.

Fire Chief Scott Williams gave his vote of approval for the system by pointing out that the safety systems that Galt presented are what he’d like to see for other installations on the island. Galt followed up, clarifying that the Fire Department has determined there is more than enough water available in the event of fire caused by a leak.

On the other hand, the Fire Chief, with some resignation, admitted that the Fire Department would be hard pressed if the worst case scenario (a BLEVE) were to occur. BLEVEs are rare. A tank must first be exposed to high heat long enough for the container’s structural integrity to be compromised. Pressure release valves, in most cases, can ensure that this condition is never met. In addition, mechanisms can be installed to keep the container cool and extinguish any flame within the area of the container. Such conditions attached to the permit would be one way for the community to essentially eliminate the risk of a BLEVE.

Rick Hughes stated that the county’s recommendation is to approve the permit with conditions. Though the Hearing Examiner will take input from the public, it’s likely that the permit will be approved, he added. It was noted, however, that decisions from the Hearing Examiner can be appealed by “Any person who submitted written comments to the director concerning the [permit] application, and any aggrieved person.” For details on how to submit an appeal see the county’s website.

Paul Kamin took the initiative to copy public comments from previous Orcas Issues articles on the topic and submit them into public record. This should allow any of those individuals to appeal a decision to approve from the Hearing Examiner.

The community leaders in attendance, Rick Hughes, Scott Williams, and Paul Kamin, appeared to be satisfied with Galt’s factual address to each of the concerns expressed by the public. They also expressed confidence that the conditional use permitting process would ultimately ensure the safety of the community. However, the meeting adjourned with many attendees remaining wary of the risks to their safety.

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Seaview Residents Share Concerns About Propane Storage Deadline for county decision is Thursday, July 13 — 12 Comments

  1. Matt Willis must have been at a different meeting than the attendees, as the questions concerning access, egress and compatibility of use as well as the safety of all residents were beyond the ability of anyone in attendance to respond to.Except to say that they couldn’t answer to those concerns.
    Private property is not a viable route for access or escape
    and Hazardous Fuel Bulk Storage is not a LIGHT industrial Use Activity.

  2. And, a residential street Seaview street and Aero view Lane do not suddenly adequately service Industrial uses or heavy fuel truck service beyond residential service delivery’s simply because a light service district “turned heavy industrial” inappropriately shows up on a map

  3. I agree with Evelyn Fuchser, Matt Willis must have been at a different meeting. I do not remember the fire chief giving his approval & he never said there is enough water, if anything he was very concerned about the water issue and how they would get emergency medical crews into Eastsound. The fire chief also said the last evacuation failed do to the lack of people. Our firehouse is volunteers only, except for a few key employees.
    I still can’t figure out how anyone would suggest placing a 30,000 gallon propane tank in the middle of a neighborhood is a good idea. Some might bring up the other two places in the area, I would like to say that they don’t have homes butting up against them on all four sides and they also have two brick buildings & a street between them and the closest home.
    I will once again ask, would any of you REALLY want this to be on the lot next to your home.

  4. I heard this was a long meeting. Thanks for covering it, Matt, and for showing a few different sides to and opinions on the proposed project.

  5. And I would also like to say, just because our property values might be affected by being in a light industrial neighborhood, does not mean they will not be MORE affected by having the light industrial on the lot next to you.

  6. Isn’t this the same location where the then-operator had a failure that caused evacuation of the entire residential neighborhood–with the result that the business was closed and the large tank removed? Do we have a shortage of propane supply that would warrant re-exposing the families in this neighborhood to this risk?

  7. This risk wasn’t even put to a risk assessment test, or any other test. Who is greasing who here? When the Life safety concerns of the citizens in the most densely populated neighborhood on the island doesn’t stand up to some erroneous concern that the island needs more propane fuel competition.
    Rick why don’t you just put it in your own damn back Yard!

  8. I think my concern for the neighboring small children’s safety kind of got the best of me in my last comment, sorry
    This is about human lives, especially the children. There are protocol to the consideration for these types of facilities. It is not reasonable that a proper protocol were not followed. This is a disservice to the citizens and the Applicant in this situation. Investments are made and lives are altered unnecessarily because the very purpose for the planning mechanism is thwarted.

  9. My heart breaks for those neighbors who will loose if/when this project is installed. Money winning again over people….seems so very sad for all of us.

  10. I feel that the island is a small place , then why again is this particular area asked to take the brunt of such an installation ? Where are the others that would meet such a standard? Are they being considered as well? also how does the proposed project benefit the neighborhood? just a question or two.

  11. Has anyone considered, or looked into, Orcas Island incorporating so that the island residents can determine the islands future and not the county?

  12. On Monday, July 17, Orcas Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Williams clarified his position as follows:

    “Without taking into account the neighborhood issues, just considering the installation of the propane tank, it meets the safety standards I’d like to see in place. The hydrant that supplies that area has a capacity of 500 gallons per minute (gpm). If there was a need for cooling water, the requirement would be just below 500 gpm, so it does meet the safety precautions.

    “However, following the meeting, I reviewed the lot and the proposal and definitely have other areas of concern. I am reviewing the need for additional GPM water supply requirements for the neighborhood and proposed propane facility if there were to be an incident in the neighborhood or at the proposed propane facility. In addition, if there is a leak, are there commercial alarm systems that can be installed to provide early identification?”